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The Fighter

Jessica Chastain has become one of the most startling actresses of her generation. Her brash turn in ”A Most Violent Year” could earn her a third Oscar nod. But don’t be fooled by her quiet poise. She’s tougher than she looks.

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Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

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On the surface, she is Hollywood’s porcelain ideal of smart beauty. Elegant. Refined. Serene. But if you’d met Jessica Chastain 15 years ago, she might have verbally roughed you up. ”When I was 22, I was easily baited for a fight,” she says. ”And I got into a lot of them, big ones. I was very confrontational. When I would feel the tension of an argument starting up, I could never stay quiet. I could never walk away.” That tough, tempestuous scrapper flickers in her latest film, the 1981-set crime drama A Most Violent Year. As Anna, the Brooklyn-wise wife and more-than-equal business partner of a heating-oil entrepreneur (Oscar Isaac), Chastain is a viper coiled to strike. Anna is a gangster’s daughter who learned to cook the books along with her ABCs, and she knows one thing to be true: No matter the battle, she wins.

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On the surface, she is Hollywood’s porcelain ideal of smart beauty. Elegant. Refined. Serene. But if you’d met Jessica Chastain 15 years ago, she might have verbally roughed you up. ”When I was 22, I was easily baited for a fight,” she says. ”And I got into a lot of them, big ones. I was very confrontational. When I would feel the tension of an argument starting up, I could never stay quiet. I could never walk away.” That tough, tempestuous scrapper flickers in her latest film, the 1981-set crime drama A Most Violent Year. As Anna, the Brooklyn-wise wife and more-than-equal business partner of a heating-oil entrepreneur (Oscar Isaac), Chastain is a viper coiled to strike. Anna is a gangster’s daughter who learned to cook the books along with her ABCs, and she knows one thing to be true: No matter the battle, she wins.

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